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Parents Edgar Jaimes and Olga Aguirre hug their daughter Mia Jaimes after she and other students were released from the building after a shooting occurred in the South parking lot of Hinkley High School on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, in Aurora, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/The Gazette)

Aurora and Denver are partnering to host a gun buyback program next year in response to recent youth shootings in the metro area.

Aurora was rocked last week by two shootings outside of local high schools. The first shooting, outside of Aurora Central High School, left six teenage students wounded on Nov. 15. Four days later, three students were shot outside of Hinkley High School.

The program, announced on Monday, is being led by Aurora City Councilman Curtis Gardner and Denver City Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer.

“I am heartbroken over the events of the past few weeks,” Sawyer said. “Our residents deserve to feel safe in their communities. Our kids deserve to feel safe in their schools. While it will not bring back those we have lost, every gun we can help take off the street represents a potential life, or lives, saved.”

The program is scheduled to launch in March and be held at churches, synagogues and community gathering places in both cities. Four events will be held in Aurora and four will be held in Denver, the announcement said.

At each event, people will be able to turn in firearms anonymously. The guns will then be destroyed and converted into garden tools and jewelry by the Colorado Springs-based nonprofit RAWtools.

The program aims to reduce the availability of firearms in the cities, the announcement said, adding that firearms used in criminal activity are often stolen from homes and vehicles.

“I am sad to see the violence that has plagued Aurora and Denver,” Gardner said. “Violence, especially youth violence, is an epidemic. ... With the combined resources of our cities, my hope is we can ensure our residents feel safe calling Aurora and Denver home.”

In Kenosha and beyond, guns become more common on US streets

Aurora's recent school shootings add to the metro area’s ongoing increase in crime during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In October and November, at least 18 teenagers were victims in shootings throughout Aurora, according to reports from the Aurora Police Department. In those shootings, at least four of the victims died of their injuries.

In Denver, there have been 17 murders and 444 aggravated assaults in the city since Oct. 1, according to the Denver Police Department’s crime map. That is up from four murders and 351 aggravated assaults during the same period in 2019.

The locations, dates and times of the gun buyback events will be announced in January. Residents and organizations interested in hosting or volunteering at an event can contact the council members at denvercouncil5@denvergov.org and cgardner@auroragov.org.

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